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If you can’t pay your bills because of coronavirus

This advice applies to England

There are things you can do if you're struggling to pay your bills because of coronavirus. This includes things like your:

  • council tax
  • mortgage
  • energy bills
  • court orders
  • tax bill

You can also check what to do if you can't pay your rent because of coronavirus.

It’s important you don’t ignore your bills. Speak to the organisation you owe money to - they might be able to help by letting you pay smaller amounts or take a break.

It’s also worth telling your bank or building society you’re struggling because of coronavirus. If you don’t normally have an overdraft, they might agree to let you have one. If they give you an overdraft or you already have one, they should agree not to charge interest on the first £500 for 3 months.

Some bills can cause you more problems if you don't pay them. It's worth checking what bills you should pay first.

If you’re worried about leaving the house to pay your bills

You might have difficulty paying if for example you usually pay in cash or post cheques.

Ask if you can pay your bills in a different way, such as a card payment over the phone or an online transfer. You can also contact your bank for advice about different ways to pay.

Check if you can get extra help or money

If you’ve been affected by coronavirus, you might be able to claim benefits or get more money on your current benefits if:

  • you have coronavirus, or you’re following guidance to stay at home
  • you’ve lost your job 
  • or you’re self-employed and can’t get work
  • you can’t work because your workplace has closed 

Check what benefits you can get if you’re affected by coronavirus

You can contact your local council to see if they can give you any extra help from a hardship fund, including food or essential things like clothes. Check your local council on GOV.UK.

If you have children and you get certain benefits, you might be able to get free school meals or supermarket vouchers for your children.  You can keep getting food or vouchers during the 2020 summer holiday.

Check if you can pay less council tax

You might qualify for a council tax reduction if your income has dropped or if you started claiming benefits recently.

You should contact your local council to see if you qualify for a council tax reduction.

If you don't think you qualify, it's still worth asking your local council if you can get a council tax reduction.

You can find your local council on GOV.UK.

If you already get a council tax reduction

Your local council should give you an extra £150 off your bill for 2020-2021 if you’re:

  • aged 18 or over

You don’t need to do anything – your local council will send you a new bill.

If your council tax bill is already less than £150, you won’t have to pay anything for this tax year, 2020-2021.

Check what you can do about your bills

Lots of people are struggling at the moment and starting to get into debt. If you need more help, you can check how to deal with your debts or contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you can’t pay your mortgage

If you ask your mortgage provider, they might agree to pause your mortgage payments for 3 months. This is called a ‘payment deferral’.

You can ask for a payment deferral for somewhere you live or somewhere you’ve bought to let. If your mortgage provider agrees, it won’t affect your credit rating.

It’s best to ask your mortgage provider for a payment deferral on their website if you can. They should agree to give you a payment deferral if you can’t pay your mortgage because of coronavirus – for example because you can’t go to work.

If you can, keep making your payments until your mortgage provider agrees you can take a payment deferral.

After your payment deferral you’ll still need to make up the payments you missed, plus interest added during the 3 months. This means you’ll have to either:

  • pay more each month
  • keep making payments for longer

Your mortgage provider might contact you during your payment deferral to work out how you can pay after it ends. It’s worth talking to them as they might be able to help you.

If you still can’t pay at the end of 3 months, you can ask your mortgage provider for a second payment deferral of up to 3 months – they should usually give you one. You can ask to defer all or part of the payments.

Your mortgage provider might not give you a second deferral if you were already behind with your payments on 20 March 2020, but it’s still worth asking.  They should still help you plan to pay the money you owe.

You can find out more about payment deferrals on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website.

You can also find out more about dealing with mortgage problems.

If you’re behind with your mortgage payments

Your mortgage provider can’t legally try to repossess your home until 23 August 2020. They should pause any action they’re already taking until 31 October 2020, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Courts have also paused all possession cases from 27 March 2020.

If your mortgage provider’s still trying to repossess your home, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you had a court deadline after 27 March 2020

Your deadline will now be after 23 August 2020. For example if the court gave you 14 days to complete a form on 20 March 2020, you’d have used 7 days by 27 March 2020. You’d then have another 7 days to complete it from 23 August 2020. 

It’s important you meet your deadline. If you’re not sure when it is, contact the court or your solicitor or adviser if you have one.

If you can’t pay your energy bills

At the moment, your energy supplier won’t disconnect your gas or electricity if you miss a payment. If you’ve got a prepayment meter and you don’t top it up, your energy supply might still stop.

If you contact your energy supplier, they might not be able to reply because of coronavirus. They should reply if you’ve got an urgent problem, for example if:

  • you have a prepayment meter and you can’t afford to top it up
  • your gas or electricity has already been disconnected

If you can’t pay or if you have problems with your energy supply, go to your energy supplier’s website to check what to do.

Find out more about what to do if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills

If you have a prepayment energy meter

Your supplier will try to help you find ways to keep your energy supply connected if you can’t top up your meter because of coronavirus. 

Tell your supplier as soon as possible if you can’t top up. You’ll find their contact details on their website or on your bill.

Check our advice on what to do if:

If you can't pay your mobile, phone, internet or TV bill

You should be able to get help from most providers. 

Contact your provider and ask what they can do to help. For example, they might agree to help you by:

  • reducing your bill
  • giving you more time to pay
  • increasing your data or download limit
  • moving you to a contract that suits your needs better

If your provider won't help you, you might be able to switch to a different provider. If you owe money to your old provider when you switch, you’ll still have to pay them.

If you work for the NHS

Your provider might be able to give you extra help, for example:

  • giving you more data, calls or texts
  • upgrading your broadband, if you have to work from home

Contact your provider and ask what they can do to help NHS staff.

If you can't pay your water bill

It’s best to speak to your water company as soon as you can if you’re having problems paying your bill. You might be able to get a payment holiday on your bill, or move to a cheaper tariff. 

You can find out more about what to do if you’re struggling to pay your water bill.

You can also read the information for customers on Water UK’s website.

If you can't pay a county court judgment or court order

You might be able to change the amount you have to pay. Find out how to change what you pay.

If you can't pay your tax bill

If you're struggling to pay your tax bill, you should speak to HMRC straight away. You can call them on their coronavirus helpline:

HMRC coronavirus helpline
Telephone: 0800 0159 559
Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm
Calls to this number are free.

You can read more about what to do if you can't pay your tax bill on time on GOV.UK.

If your individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) includes tax debt

If you have an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) that includes tax debt, you might be able to delay your payments.

Speak to your insolvency practitioner - they'll let you know if it's possible to delay your payments.

You can find out more about what to do if you're struggling to pay your IVA.

If you can’t pay for your insurance

If you’re struggling to pay because of coronavirus, contact your insurance provider and explain the situation. 

They might be able to help you by:

  • removing parts of your policy to bring the cost down - for example, taking out breakdown cover
  • letting you pay over a longer period
  • not charging you fees for paying late
  • pausing your payments for up to 3 months - you'll still have to pay later and you might have to pay interest too

Your insurance provider shouldn’t charge you any fees for changing your policy. 

If you paid for your insurance up front and then change your policy to make it cheaper, you should get a refund of the difference.

If your insurance provider won’t agree to help you, you can complain to an ombudsman.

If you’re paying back a benefit overpayment or budgeting loan

You don’t have to make any repayments until at least 1 July 2020 – this includes payments to debt collection companies.

If money’s normally taken off your benefits or earnings to repay them, this will stop – you don’t have to do anything.

If you normally repay them yourself, you can stop making payments. If you pay by direct debit, you can ask your bank to cancel it.

If you got an advance payment of Universal Credit, you’ll still have to pay this back.

If you can’t pay your credit card bills

At the moment, your credit card company won’t stop your credit card – even if they’ve said they might.

They might also agree to reduce or pause your payments for 3 months.

Check what to do if you’re struggling with credit card bills.

If you can’t repay a loan

Your lender might agree to reduce or pause your payments temporarily.

This might be money you’ve borrowed from a bank or a loan company. It could also be a payday loan or money from a pawnbroker.

Check what to do if you can’t repay a loan.

If you can’t pay for something you bought on finance

The finance company might agree to reduce or pause your payments for 3 months.

You might have used finance to buy things like:

  • a car
  • something for your home - like a washing machine or furniture

Buying something on finance is sometimes known as ‘rent to own’ or ‘hire purchase’. 

Check what to do if you bought something on finance you can’t pay for.

If you’re thinking about borrowing money to pay your bills

It’s best to ask for help first from the organisations you need to pay. You might be able to agree a plan with them to help you pay the money you owe.

It’s usually more expensive to take out a loan – you’ll have to pay extra costs like interest.

If you decide to take out a loan, you should:

  • check you can afford to pay the loan back

If the lender isn’t authorised or registered

If they’re not authorised or registered, don’t borrow money from them.

An unauthorised lender might want to charge high interest rates or expensive fees. They might not give you proper paperwork, and might ask to take things like your passport, or a bank card as security for the loan. 

Unauthorised lenders are often called ‘loan sharks’. You can report loan sharks on the Stop Loan Sharks website.

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